THE Western Cape High Court has set aside the suspension of UCT student activist Chumani Maxwele, with costs.
UCT had deemed Maxwele a potential risk to staff and students in June and suspended the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) member until September 24, pending a disciplinary hearing into allegations from a lecturer.
When Maxwele appealed the suspension to the university it later varied the order, allowing him to attend classes and use the library.
But Maxwele was not satisfied and returned to court last month to ask it to set aside the suspension.
Yesterday he hailed the court’s decision as a vindication. “(It) confirms that the suspension was politically motivated.
“They (UCT) have tried every trick in the book to silence us (RMF) and shut me down but they have been exposed by the high court,” he said.
“They used the allegation of the lecturer to silence and sideline me so I could not participate in political activities. This is a total vindication against a deliberate assassination of my character,” he added.
He said RMF would continue advocating for any remnants of colonial power to be removed from campus.
Acting Judge Lister Nuku heard the matter on the grounds of rationality, reasonableness and bias.
He found that deputy registrar of academic administration Karen van Heerden issued Maxwele with a first provisional suspension order and the first final suspension order, but should not have been at a suspension hearing.
Maxwele had asked for her recusal saying that Van Heerden could not be impartial, but she refused.
“I am satisfied that there were grounds requiring the third respondent (Van Heerden) to recuse herself from the second suspension hearing and that her failure to do so must have given rise to the applicant’s reasonable suspicion of her bias.
“The second suspension hearing was thus tainted with bias,” Nuku found.
“With the applicant having succeeded in establishing reasonable suspicion of bias, I deem it not necessary to deal with the grounds of review based on rationality and reasonableness,” he said.
The court also agreed with Maxwele’s argument that the mediation process would be ineffective and futile.
UCT spokesperson Patricia Lucas said while the university would abide by the court’s findings, its decision did not interfere with UCT’s disciplinary process.
“This ruling does not affect the actual case Mr Maxwele faces in relation to an altercation with a lecturer and this matter will still go ahead,” she said.
She added that UCT had gone out of its way to ensure that the suspension order would not affect Maxwele’s ability to continue his studies.
“The court did not identify any concerns with UCT’s disciplinary procedures and confirmed that the disciplinary process against Mr Maxwele can proceed.
“It should be noted that the court did not comment on whether UCT was justified on the reasons for its suspension of Mr Maxwele,” she said. Lucas added that Maxwele’s insistence that his suspension was politically motivated was a “fabrication”.@lisa_isaacs